NFC West: Rodney Leisle

Cardinals: Cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Biggest surprise: There weren'y any big ones. Undrafted rookie linebacker Reggie Walker did beat out veteran Victor Hobson. The team kept seven receivers for now, including Lance Long, after injuries affected Early Doucet, Anquan Boldin and (previously) Steve Breaston. I would not expect the Cardinals to keep seven receivers all season, a reminder that this is the team's initial 53-man roster, not the final one.

Arizona sought to upgrade its secondary through the draft and free agency. That spelled the end for veteran safety Aaron Francisco. I thought the team might keep veteran center Melvin Fowler as insurance. Rookie returner LaRod Stephens-Howling stuck around, costing fullback Tim Castille a chance to continue with the team. Tight end Leonard Pope's demise had been on the horizon for a while and it was a bad sign when he was playing deep into the second half of the fourth exhibition game.

No-brainers: The team also released quarterback Tyler Palko, receiver Steve Sanders, receiver Ed Gant, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, running back Chris Vincent, cornerback Jameel Dowling, fullback Reagan Maui'a, guard Trevor Canfield guard Carlton Medder, defensive end Alex Field, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, tackle Oliver Ross, receiver Onrea Jones, defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, linebacker Chase Bullock and linebacker David Holloway. Canfield, chosen in the seventh-round, was the only 2009 draft choice released.

What's next: The heirarchy at tight end will continue to shake out, with Dominique Byrd essentially getting an extended tryout while Ben Patrick serves a four-game suspension. The team still could use a backup center with some experience.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals have gotten dramatically younger at running back this offseason. Edgerrin James and Terrelle Smith are gone, leaving Tim Hightower and Dan Kreider as the only current Cardinals running backs with starting experience.

The team kept three halfbacks and two fullbacks on its Week 1 roster last season. Nine other teams also kept more than one fullback for the opener.

Hightower, Chris Wells, Jason Wright, Kreider and Tim Castille entered camp as the likely choices for those spots, should the team keep five. LaRod Stephens-Howling would have to significantly liven up the return game to earn a spot, most likely.

Arizona Cardinals Week 1 Roster Counts since 2003 QB RB WR TE OL DL LB DB ST
Fewest 2
4 5 2 8 5 6 7 2
Most 4 7 7 4 10 9 8 10 3
Average 3.0 5.3 6.0 3.2 8.8 7.7 7.0 8.8 2.8
Currently on roster
8 10 5 15 10 11 14 3

The chart provides a framework for how many players the Cardinals might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the 49ers.

Here's a quick look at which Cardinals players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:

(Read full post)

Posted by's Mike Sando

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Pass-rush drills are always a highlight at NFL training camps, not for the poor guys participating, but certainly for those watching.

One offensive lineman and one defensive lineman get into their stances across from one another. Four other offensive linemen stand in formation, awaiting their turns. The offensive line coach stands behind the defensive player so he can relay the snap count to his offensive lineman without the defensive player seeing his hand signals. The line then coach barks out signals, testing both players' discipline, before the center snaps the ball on the appropriate count.

All hell breaks loose, with pride on the line and offensive linemen at a disadvantage without the double-team blocks they use in games. The offensive linemen awaiting their turns congratulate or console their linemates, depending on the outcome. Same for the onlooking defensive linemen. Sometimes a desperate player will resort to borderline dirty tactics -- a slap to the head or a blatant hold of the facemask -- adding tension when the combatants line up against one another later in the drill. Smack talk between onlooking offensive and defensive linemen sometimes enlivens the experience.

If you are an offensive lineman at Cardinals camp, Darnell Dockett is one of the last people you want to see lining up across from you. He is 290 pounds of attitude, with ample quickness and strength to embarrass the best interior offensive linemen. Dockett did meet his match in the Saturday drills. Right guard Deuce Lutui engulfed and controlled him both times they faced one another, impressive work for Lutui.

The Cardinals' offensive linemen generally held up well. Perhaps that says something about the state of the pass rush in addition to the protection. There were exceptions. Nose tackle Gabe Watson repeatedly steamrolled Ben Claxton with such force that I felt bad for the backup center, particularly with so many fans watching. This was a matchup he could not win.

"You gonna take that?" one fan yelled after a particularly lopsided encounter between the two. Part of me wanted offensive line coach Russ Grimm to drag the heckler from the stands by his collar and force him to line up against the 6-foot-4, 329-pound Watson. "You try it, sir."

A few other notes and observations from the Cardinals' pass-rush drills Saturday:

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Posted by's Mike Sando

  • Add former Rams tight end Anthony Becht and former Seahawks center Donovan Raiola to the list of players the Cardinals have signed to contracts. Guard Elton Brown and defensive tackle Rodney Leisle were the others. The team announced the moves. All four signed one-year contracts. Becht can be a strong blocking tight end. He might provide insurance while Stephen Spach recovers from knee surgery.
  • One more note on Becht: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt coached tight ends for the Jets when they drafted Becht in 2000.
  • Seahawks president Tim Ruskell was also attending the workout for Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. We previously noted that offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was there.
  • Free-agent 49ers cornerback Donald Strickland paid a visit to the Titans.
  • The Rams signed tackle Daren Heerspink. He signed with the Dolphins last season as an undrafted free agent from Portland State. The Rams now have nine offensive linemen.
Cardinals Offensive Lineman
Age Status
Scott Peters
Mike Gandy
Ben Claxton
Reggie Wells
Elton Brown
Deuce Lutui
Lyle Sendlein
Levi Brown
Elliot Vallejo
Brandon Keith
Posted by's Mike Sando

Thanks to those who passed along notes about the Adam Caplan report Wednesday on the Cardinals adding nose tackle Rodney Leisle.

The team has also brought back one of its unrestricted free agents.

Guard Elton Brown, who has occasionally challenged Deuce Lutui for the starting job at right guard, has agreed to terms on a new contract.

The Cardinals now have nine offensive linemen. That's about how many offensive linemen teams tend to carry during the regular season.

Arizona will add to that total through the draft, presumably, and possibly through free agency, although the Cardinals haven't brought in free agents for visits during the first three weeks of the signing period. The team could always draft one or more linemen, then round out the group with undrafted free agents.

The Cardinals are relatively young on the line. They also have one of the better line coaches in the league in Russ Grimm. They could benefit from adding a center and possibly another prospect at tackle and/or guard.